“Come and See” by Tim Keller, be amazed at God’s Grace (Follow Jesus, Courage, Called to God)

COME AND SEE BY TIMOTHY KELLER

‘We need to remember that all those who wrote the New Testament or provided the material for it were trained by Jesus.” In his book After Heaven, Robert Wuthnow says the watchword of Americans today is spiritual. People say, ‘I’m spiritual, but I’m not religious. I am searching for spiritual reality, but I don’t expect to find it in religious institutions or sets of dogmas.’ What Wuthnow articulates so well here is Americans’ combined rejection of the idea that secular science and reason alone can give us meaning in life or a life worth living’ that their real interest is in the supernatural and in the eternal. They don’t want to go back to the perceived creativity-stifling, smug moralism of ‘traditional religion,’ so they say, ‘Ah, the new spirituality, not the old traditional religion.’

In John 1:35-51, we see the account of how Jesus Christ met his first disciples. We see something offered to us that is neither the new spirituality nor the old traditional religion. It’s not a vague or general sense of spiritual well-being or a new set of rules. It’s an encounter with a living Person.

I have chosen this biblical passage because there are patterns here. If you want to find this spiritual reality through Jesus—this man who bridges the gap between spirituality and religion, and who offers us something different from either the new spirituality or the old traditional religion—then you need to see what the key is. The key is this repeated phrase: ‘Come and see.’ What does that mean? Let’s look at it together.

‘COME AND SEE’ MEANS ‘COME AND THINK: EXAMINE THE EVIDENCE’

The first time ‘Come and see’ happens, the disciples are kind of nervous. They were just told Jesus is this incredible person, so they follow. He says, ‘What do you want?’ What they want is to know if what they have heard is really true.

Jesus doesn’t demand belief at the moment. He doesn’t say, ‘Well, let me tell you who I am and how I demand obedience.’ He says, ‘Come and get to know me. Come and see how I live. Come and see how I speak. Come and see what I do.’ The second time we see ‘Come and see’ in the Gospel passage is when Philip says to his friend, Nathanael, ‘I found the Messiah.’

Nathanael responds with a valid question. Everybody at that time knew the Messiah would come out of Bethlehem, out of the line of David. So Nathanael looks at Philip and says, ‘He is from Galilee. He is from Nazareth. How could he be the Messiah?’ Philip’s answer is to say, ‘Let’s go find out. Come and see.’

The question we ask today is: ‘How could there be a loving and merciful God when the world is the way it is with all the injustice?’ This is another valid question, so let’s see how Jesus would answer it.

He doesn’t define the ‘new spirituality’ by saying, ‘It doesn’t matter what you believe. Figure out what works for you.’ Although that would be convenient—no critical thinking, no assessment—instead he says, ‘Come and think.’ He does not say to you what traditional religion has often said: ‘Don’t question. Just believe what we’re telling you because we’ve told you.’ No, Jesus says, ‘Come and think.’ How different this is from either the neo-spirituality or old religion.

Although the Gospel writer was addressing people who lived two thousand years ago, those people were in the same boat as we are today. How can they go and look at Jesus? How can they listen to him? How can they look at the evidence of what he said and how he lived? Here is the answer: ‘The next day John [the Baptist] was there.’ When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, ‘Look”’

There are two important points here. All through the first chapter of John, we’re told that John the Baptist saw and said. The Greek word used here means essentially, ‘I was actually there. I really saw this, and now my testimony is admissible evidence in court.’ John the Baptist is not talking about an inward experience. He’s not talking about an impression. John is saying, ‘I’m seeing this.’

As we read this passage, we see it has the marks of an eyewitness account. It says they saw where he was staying and they spent the day with him until the tenth hour, which is 4:00 pm.

In Reynolds Price’s introduction to his book Three Gospels, he makes the interesting point that in the ancient world, fictional narratives such as epics, legends, and myths never used details.

You don’t see, ‘Oedipus went to see the Oracle at Delphi, and she came out around 4:00.’ Our Gospel passage, however, states, ‘The next day,’ not ‘Once upon a time.’ Price says that when you see such detail, it means that the author is signaling the reader that this is a legal testimony, not an urban legend. This is John’s way of saying, ‘This is an eyewitness account. I’m showing you exactly what he said and did. If you read my account, you will be able to come and see and examine the evidence the way we did.’

How can you come and see? Read the account of the Gospels. Then you will have to decide whether you believe these were deliberate, intricate lies by people who died for those lies, or that a human being was the Creator God who came to earth to save us. But there is nothing in the middle that is warranted.

The only way you know you’ve come and seen is if you have a position that, frankly, is extremely hard. It’s very hard to believe that a human being would be God, and it’s very hard to believe that this incredible movement and these incredible people, who died for this, consciously and deliberately told us lies about it. You have to decide which one is easier for you to believe, but don’t you dare stand in the middle. If you have, it means you haven’t come and seen.

‘COME AND SEE’ MEANS ‘COME AND FOLLOW: CHANGE YOUR LIFE’

The word come means that I move from where I am to here. I make a change. The reason Jesus says ‘Come’ is because he wants them to follow. He doesn’t just want them to believe.

The text gets that across in a couple of ways, but here is the best one. In John 1:29, the Baptist says to his disciples, ‘Look, the Lamb of God.’ It’s not until verse 35 that they actually follow. This is a way for us to see the difference. When John the Baptist told his disciples ‘This is the Messiah,’ surely they believed, but they weren’t ‘followers’ until they actually began to follow Jesus.

That’s the difference between being just a person who ascribes to beliefs, who says, ‘Oh, I like Jesus. I believe in Jesus. I’m trying to follow Jesus,’ and knowing Jesus personally and becoming a follower, a disciple. Now how does that happen in your life? In verse 51, Jesus says, ‘I tell you the truth.’ What the Gospel writer tells us he really says is, ‘Amen, amen.’ The word amen is an Aramaic word that means, ‘This is true.’ Every commentator and historian, anybody who knows ancient cultures, knows this is a unique usage of it. As one commentator puts it, ‘Jesus Christ’s use of amen to introduce his own words is without analogy in all of Judaism and among any other New Testament writers.’ Amen was only used to affirm and approve and accredit the words of another.’

For example, when someone was preaching in the synagogue, the elders would stand up. When they were all done, they would say, ‘Amen.’ Why? That was their way of saying, ‘We’ve checked out what this person says with our understanding of the Scripture, and it’s true.’ Maybe all the people would say, ‘Amen.’

Of course, Jesus Christ made it even harder for us because he affirms the Bible. It’s not that just his words printed in red in your Bible are the ones we have to obey. Jesus himself says, ‘The Scriptures shall not be broken. Not a jot or a tittle will pass away until all is fulfilled.’ We need to remember that all those who wrote the New Testament or provided the material for it were trained by Jesus. If you want to come and see and believe—that is, investigate the evidence—all you have to do is believe that the Bible is reliable reporting. But if you want to be a disciple and if you want to know Jesus personally, you have to be willing to listen to what the Word of God says, whether you like it or not.

Personal following without an infallible Bible is impossible. If you read the words of Jesus and say ‘That’s great’ about some things and ‘I can’t believe that; that’s primitive’ about others, what kind of Jesus do you have at the end of your reading? You have a Jesus of your own heart’s making. You think you’re following Jesus, but you’re following your own heart under the guise of following Jesus.

Unless Jesus compels you to say, ‘I’m going to do this. I’m going to listen to this. I’m going to wrestle with this. I’m going to submit to this even where I hate it’, if you don’t have that, then you don’t have a personal Jesus.

COME AND SEE’ MEANS ‘PROCESS THIS WITH FRIENDS’

What’s really interesting about this encounter in the Gospel account is that John the Baptist leads Andrew and the other person, whoever it is, to Jesus. Andrew leads his brother Peter to Jesus. Philip leads Nathanael to Jesus. When Philip says, ‘Come and see,’ what he means is, ‘Let’s go together. Let’s figure this out.’ This is a very important point. While there are exceptions, the general rule is that the way to find Jesus is almost always through someone you know. In this case, it was a friend who had already found Jesus.

Christianity is not a philosophy through some great teacher by which you can save yourself. No, Christianity is an encounter with a Person, and we see in the Bible that people find Jesus through their friends. After being introduced to Jesus, then we need friends who are a couple of steps ahead of us spiritually to help us in our walk.

There are some of you who have already experienced the blessing of having found Jesus through friends. Some of you have a lot to offer, but you’re not finding anybody for Jesus. If you want to know how you can finally be effective and really be helpful to people, then look at the Gospel text. There are three things we see here.

1. First, patience. John the Baptist says repeatedly, ‘Look, the Lamb of God.’ Finally, they follow Jesus. You have to be patient. Who knows how many times you have to say ‘Look’ before they follow.

2. Second, courage. Philip says, ‘We found the Messiah, and here he is.’ Nathanael asks him a tough question that he has no idea how to answer. Isn’t this the reason why we’re all such chickens? Aren’t we afraid of being asked a question we don’t know the answer to? But the way to get good at answering those questions is practice by floundering and blowing it for years. Unless you’re willing, unless you have the courage to do that, you’re never going to be effective.

3. Third, confident humility. What does Philip do when he gets the total stump question of ‘Isn’t the Messiah supposed to be from Bethlehem?’ He says, ‘I don’t know. Let’s talk about it. Let’s study. Let’s go talk to him. Let’s go look.’ There is a humility here because he takes Nathanael seriously enough to say, ‘We do need to think about this, and I don’t know the answer.’ But he also has the confidence to say, ‘If you come, you will see.’

‘COME AND SEE’ MEANS ‘COME AND WONDER’

When Nathanael meets Jesus, Jesus says, ‘You believe because.’ You will see greater things than you can imagine. ‘Come and see’ means come and wonder. I am calling you into an adventure so wonderful that it is beyond your imagination.’ How does he do this?

First of all, he calls us to the wondrous adventure of personal transformation. I’ll put it to you this way. Do you remember ever meeting somebody you suddenly realized really understood you? It could have been a counselor, a new friend, or an older, wiser person. It could have been somebody you were falling in love with. Why was it so heady and addicting? I’ll tell you why. To begin with, you’re excited about the possibility of finally being able to figure yourself out.

We’re all riddles to ourselves. ‘Why do I do what I do? Why do I feel what I feel?’ You’re also excited that this wise person, this person you love and respect, thinks about you, considers you significant enough to think of you, to ponder you, to consider you. The two together, the prospect of new information and that incredible affirmation, just blow you through the roof. But even this kind of revelation and fulfillment has its boundaries—ultimately, you always find there is a limit to how much that person really knows you and loves you.

When Nathanael walks up to Jesus, he is blown away by something no rabbi ever has done or ever will do. Jesus says to him, ‘Behold, an Israelite in whom there is no guile’ (KJV). What Jesus is talking about is his character. He uses a word that means unpretentious and transparent. Nathanael looks at him and says, ‘You nailed me. Yeah, I am that kind of person. I’m plain spoken. I’m kind of blunt. How do you know me?’ Then Jesus says, ‘Know you? I saw you under the fig tree.’ Nathanael’s eyes get as big as saucers. He says, ‘How could you’? How could any’? You are the Messiah!’

What does that mean? I don’t know. We don’t know. That’s one of the marks of an eyewitness account. But I’ll tell you, it was something so private, so significant, so absolutely impossible that any human being could know that Nathanael is astounded. ‘This is not just somebody who knows me somewhat; he knows me completely.’

That’s not the only reason he is blown away. Jesus Christ is not just saying, ‘I know you.’ He is praising him, even though Nathanael doesn’t know him. Isn’t that astounding?

JESUS CHRIST KNOWS YOU TO THE BOTTOM AND PRAISES YOU TO THE SKIES. THERE HAS NEVER BEEN A COUNSELOR LIKE THIS. THERE HAS NEVER BEEN A FRIEND LIKE THIS. THERE HAS NEVER BEEN A LOVER LIKE THIS. THIS IS THE WONDERFUL COUNSELOR. THIS IS THE FRIEND YOU’VE ALWAYS BEEN LOOKING FOR. WHEN GOD COMES AND CALLS YOU IN LOVE, BY HIS CALL HE MAKES YOU WHAT HE CALLS YOU.

First, Jesus says, ‘Nathanael, I will give you greater things than that. You have no idea what you’re going to become, transformed by my love.’ Second, Jesus talks about an upward journey, an outward journey. He says, ‘Verily, verily I say to you, you will see heaven open and the angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man.’ What he is saying here is astounding.

In the Old Testament story of Jacob, Jacob was running through the desert, fleeing for his life, despairing that he had lost God, that he had lost everything. Going to sleep for the night, he dreams of a ladder on which angels were ascending and descending.

Jesus Christ says to Nathanael, ‘Let me tell you something beyond your imagination. I am the gate of heaven Jacob saw. That was not just a dream; that was a promise. I am the way through that wall into that cosmic reality that is behind this world.’ What does it mean? It means that story is about him. It means all the stories in the Old Testament are about him.

When John the Baptist says, ‘Look, the Lamb of God,’ what is he saying? He is referring to that night long ago in Egypt when the angel of death passed over those who had blood on their doorframes. For those who didn’t have the blood of the lamb on their doors, the firstborn of that house died. John the Baptist says, ‘Jesus is that slain Lamb. That story was about him, about his life, about his death.’

But it goes beyond that. When Jesus Christ says, ‘I am the door and the gateway into the cosmic reality behind everything,’ he is not just saying, ‘All the biblical stories are about me.’ He is saying, ‘All the stories are about me.’ Jesus says, ‘My story is the story to which all the other stories are pointing. Therefore, the stories are true. You can know me, and this same cosmic power from that cosmic, glorious center will come into your life. You will be in the story. Evil spells will be broken. I am the reality to which all the legends point.’

‘COME AND SEE’ MEANS YOU CAN GET IN. ‘COME AND SEE’ MEANS I CAN’T EVEN BEGIN TO DESCRIBE WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN IN YOUR LIFE IF YOU COME AND FOLLOW HIM.

You say, ‘Okay, I have to change my life, right? Obey the Bible, right?’ You’re excited. You’re ready. ‘I have to tell my friends about Jesus. I have to study the Bible.’

No. The key to getting in is not to do anything. Jesus does not say, ‘I’m at the top of the ladder.’ He doesn’t say, ‘Angels are ascending and descending to the Son of Man.’ He doesn’t say, ‘If you try really hard, you can ascend.’ No, you can’t. Psalm 24 says, ‘Who shall ascend into the presence of God? He who has clean hands and a pure heart.’

How are we ever going to get up there? Jesus says, ‘I am the ladder. I came down to bring you to God. I lived the life you should have lived, died the death you should have died. Trust in me. If you do, you get in.’

COME AND SEE. THINK. COME AND SEE. FOLLOW. COME AND SEE WITH FRIENDS. ‘COME AND SEE’ MEANS BE AMAZED AT HIS GRACE. HE CAN’T WAIT TO SHOW YOU WHAT HE IS GOING TO DO FOR YOU. COME AND SEE.

Timothy Keller

Source: Modern Reformation Magazine; Who Is Jesus? VOL 24; ISSUE 6, 10/31/2015

“With a Love That Outlasts”, a worship poem from Linda Willows (Exalting God, God’s Heart, Our Redeemer)

I go back to this worship poem from a while ago and I am grateful for the moment – it was true then but it grows deeper for me and becomes more of a calling as time walks forward…

With a Love That Outlasts

The evening shifts, the clouds reform.
I watch a passing storm transform.
Like the heart through seasons of,
this, the life that journeys Love. 

In the beauty of God’s wondrous heart;
here we fasten, there we start.
Such are the oceans that open invite,
this sky of sweet bidding and joyous delight.

In the calm of a peace that stills our all.
Here my heart rests. Here my soul calls.
God in the answers; in a silence that asks-
He fills all the spaces with a Love that outlasts.

© 2019 Linda Willows

Psalm 46:10 “He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Jeremiah 33:3
“‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’”

Isaiah 54:8
“With everlasting love I will have compassion on you, says the Lord your Redeemer.”

“Ambassadors for Christ”, from Charles H. Spurgeon (believe and live, reconciled to Christ)

“Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:20

A Sermon Delivered on Lord’s-day Morning, July 18th, 1886, by C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington ( Charles H. Spurgeon Wikipedia )

The headings and emphasis are my own: L.Willows

Oh, that these lips had language, or that this heart could speak without them! Then would I plead with every unconverted, unbelieving soul within this place, and plead as for my life. Friend, you are at enmity with God, and God is angry with you; but on his part there is every readiness for reconciliation. He has made a way by which you can become his friend-a very costly way to himself, but free to you.

God meets us; the reconciliation of His Love.

He could not give up his justice, and so destroy the honour of his own character; but he did give up his Son, his Only Begotten, and his Well-Beloved; and that Son of his had been made sin for us, though he knew no sin. See how God meets you !

See how willing, how anxious he is that there should be reconciliation between you and God to-day it is not from want of kindness on his part; it is from want of willingness on yours. The burden of your ruin must lie at your own door: your blood must be on your own skirts.

Now observe what we have to say to you to-day is this: we are anxious that you should be at peace with God, and therefore we act as ambassadors for Christ. I am not going to lay any stress upon the office of ambassador as honourable or authoritative, for I do not feel that this would have weight with you: but I lay all the stress upon the peace to which we would fain have you reconciled also. I once knew him not, neither did I care for him. I lived well enough without him, and sported with trifles of a day, so as to forget him.

He brought me to seek his face, and seeking his face I found him. He has blotted out my sins and removed my enmity. I know that I am his servant, and that he is my friend, my Father, my All. And now I cannot help trying in my poor way to be an ambassador for him with you.

I do not like that any of you should live at enmity with my Father who made you; and that you should want only provoking him by preferring evil to good.

Pleading that you know God’s Peace, that you know His delight in you.

Why should you not be at peace with one who so much wants to be at peace with you? Why should you not love the God of love, and delight in him who is so kind to you? What he hath done for me he is quite willing to do for you: he is a God ready to pardon. I have preached his gospel now for many years, but I never met with a sinner yet that Christ refused to cleanse when he came to him. I never knew a single case of a man who trusted Jesus, and asked to be forgiven, confessing his sin and forsaking it, who was cast out.

I say I never met with one man whom he has restored to purity, and drunkards whom he has delivered from their evil habit, and with men guilty of foul sins who have become pure and chaste through the Lord Jesus.

They have always told me the same story-“I sought the Lord, and he heard me; he hath washed me in his blood, and I am whiter than snow.” Why should you not be saved as well as these?

Dear friend, perhaps you have never thought of this matter, and this morning you did not some here with any idea of thinking of it; but why should you not begin? You came just to hear a well-known preacher;

I pray you forget the preacher, and think only of yourself, your God and your Saviour. It must be wrong for you to live without a thought of your Maker. To forget him is to despise him. It must be wrong for you to refuse the great atonement: you so refuse it if you do not accept it at once. It must be wrong for you to stand out against your God; and you do stand out against him if you will not be reconciled to him. Therefore I humbly play the part of an ambassador for Christ, and I beseech you believe in him and live.

We are Ambassadors for Christ.

Notice how the text puts it: “We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us.” This thought staggers me. As I came along this morning I felt as if I could bury my head in my hands and weep as I thought of God beseeching anybody. He speaks, and it is done; myriads of angels count themselves happy to fly at his command; and yet man has so become God’s enemy that he will not be reconciled to him.

God would make him his friend, and spends the blood of his dear Son to cement that friendship; but man will not have it. See the great God turns to beseeching his obstinate creature! his foolish creature! In this I feel a reverent compassion for God. Must he beseech a rebel to be forgiven? Do you hear it? Angels, do you hear it?

He who is the King of kings veils his sovereignty, and stoops to beseeching his creature to be reconciled to him! I wonder not that some of my brethen start back from such an idea, and cannot believe that it could be so: it seems so derogatory to the glorious God. Yet my text saith it, and it must be true-“As though God did beseech you by us.”

This makes it awful work to preach, does it not? I ought to beseech you as though God spoke to you through me, looking at you through these eyes, and stretching out his hands through these hands. He saith, “All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.”

He speaks softly, and tenderly, and with paternal affection through these poor lips of mine, “as though God did beseech you by us”. (Spurgeon)

Furthermore notice that next line, which if possible has even more force in it: “We pray you in Christ’s stead.”

Since Jesus died in our stead we, his redeemed ones, are to pray others in his stead; and as he poured out his heart for sinners in their stead, we must in another way pour out our hearts for sinners in his stead. “We pray you in Christ’s stead.”

Now if my Lord were here this morning how would he pray you to come to him? I wish, my Master, I were more fit to stand in thy place at this time. Forgive me that I am so incapable. Help me to break my heart, to think that it does not break as it ought to do, for these men and women who are determined to destroy themselves, and, therefore, pass thee by, my Lord, as though thou were but a common felon, hanging on a gibbet!

The Gate: Taking His Yoke, Finding Rest

O men, How can you think so little of the death of the Son of God? It is the wonder of time, the admiration of eternity. O souls, why will you refuse eternal life? Why will ye die? Why will ye despise him by whom alone you can live? There is one gate of life, that gate is the open side of Christ; why will ye not enter, and live? “Come unto me,” saith he; “Come unto me.” I think I hear him say it: “Come unto me all that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”

I think I see him on that last day, the great day of the feast, standing and crying, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.” I hear him sweetly declare, “Him that cometh to me I will no wise cast out.” I am not fit to pray you in Christ’s stead, but I do pray you with all my heart. You that hear my voice from Sunday to Sunday, do come and accept the great sacrifice, and be reconciled to God.

You that hear me but this once, I would like you to go away with this ringing in your ears, “Be ye reconciled to God.” I have nothing pretty to say to you; I have only to declare that God has prepared a propitiation, and that now he entreats sinners to come to Jesus, that through him they may be reconciled to God.

We do not exhort you to some impossible effort. We do not bid you do some great thing; we do not ask you for money or price; neither do we demand of you years of miserable feeling; but only this-be ye reconciled. It is not so much reconcile yourselves as “be reconciled.” Yield yourselves to him who round you now the bands of a man would cast, drawing you with cords of love because he was given for you. His spirit strives with you, yield to his striving.

Yielding to such great love given.

With Jacob you know there wrestled a man till the breaking of the day; let that man, that God-man, overcome you. Submit yourselves. Yield to grasp of those hands which were nailed to the cross for you. Will you not yield to your best friend? He that doth embrace you now presses you to a heart that was pierced with the spear on your behalf.

Oh, yield thee! Yield thee, man! Dost thou not feel some softness stealing over thee? Steel not thine heart against it. He saith, with a Tone most still and sweet. “To-day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” Believe and live!

Quit the arch-enemy who has held thee in his grip. Escape for thy life, look not behind thee, stay not in all the plain, but flee where thou seest the open door of the great Father’s house. At the gate the bleeding Saviour is waiting to receive thee, and to say, “I was made sin for thee, and thou art made the righteousness of God in me.” Father, draw them! Father, draw them! Eternal Spirit, draw them, for Jesus Christ thy Son’s sake! Amen.

A Sermon, (No.1910, Part 11)
Delivered on Lord’s-day Morning, July 18th, 1886, by C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington

Christianity Today: History of Charles H. Spurgeon, Finest 19th Century Preacher
For Further Reading: The Spurgeon Center